While most of Italy balances its cooking between butter and olive oil, Rome prefers matured pork fat called strutto. In other ways Rome is different too: vegetables grown in the surrounding volcanic soil are said to have a distinct taste, and sheep, suckling lamb, and suckling kid (slaughtered often when only weeks old) become specialty dishes. Romans take
their traditions very seriously. With a common saying, “Bread and water are fit for a dog,” every home and every small restaurant proudly serves the very best, fully confident that their tradition truly is the best. With knowing skills the Romans do indeed select the best from north and south and create from it a distinctively Roman cuisine.
Pizzas are everywhere, but Rome has an elegantly simple one that defies imitation. Gently warmed from the oven, the pizza alla Roma is stretched to six feet long before being baked and finished with brushings of olive oil, chopped garlic, and rosemary or maybe just a blush of fresh chopped tomatoes graced with olive oil and pepper.
Crostini (toasted bread and cheese) takes on distinctive Roman flavor because it is made with Roman Provatura, spaghetti all amatriciana is a spaghetti tossed with a delicate sauce of peeled and seeded tomatoes caressed with onion and bacon; suppli are cheese croquettes filled with a mixture of northern rice, meats, and dried mushrooms; and stufatino is a Roman version of Milan’s stufato (beef and tomatoes), but cooked in lard and garnished with cardoons. Tripe is beloved in many dishes throughout Italy but Rome’s version is cooked with either meat gravy or tomato sauce, then served with grated cheese touched with minced fresh mint. Carciofi alla Giudia dates from ancient times and bases its tenderness on the quality of artichokes grown near Rome.
Roman cuisine also includes batter-fried squash flowers, stuffed zucchini, tomatoes, peppers and squashes; casseroles of simmered vegetables; fava beans and white beans served as thick soups or hearty casseroles with cheese or sausages – and if the fresh tenderness of young vegetables are not enough, there is the haunting flavor of strutto, the matured pork fat used in so many dishes and heightened with sage, rosemary, garlic, and anchovy paste.
Specialties of Rome include cheesecakes and filled pastries made from Ricotta; fruit tarts prepared with visciole (sour cherry jam); tiny cookies shaped like beans (favi dolce), and crisp fritters. Each of the many villages around Rome produces its own famed wines and most of the Vine Dei Castelli are white.